My name is Francis Ocitti and I’m a student of Gulu University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts Education majoring in English Language and Literature in English. I am 23 years old and live in Northern Uganda.
I must confess that I was once a victim of domestic violence and because of that I encountered a lot of other related challenges and limitations in my life ever since I was a child.
I was a child of two rich, peaceful and loving parents but all this changed in a flush. My father lost almost everything except his house, family and a few savings he had in his account that couldn’t sustain the whole family for long. By the time I reached 14 years of age, our home was already a battle field. My father became an alcoholic and would beat my mother on a daily basis, especially during evenings and when he was drunk. He couldn’t provide for us financially, or do any of the things a responsible father is expected to do for his family. We were neglected by our father and felt forgotten. He spent most of his few savings on alcohol. At this point our mother was the sole provider for the family. She tried to provide for us but did not manage to cover all our needs. She struggled on a daily basis to provide food for the family and in the evenings our father would come back drunk demanding food. This was one of the major causes of fights every day. After two years of suffering, our mother left us in the squalor and went to live with her sister in Kakuma, Northwestern Kenya. In her absence, we received unimaginable physical suffering, torture, psychological abuse and all forms of mistreatment from our father. We had to look for our own money, cook for ourselves and pay our own school fees. I only went to school for a few days each week, and this affected my comprehension of what was taught. After school there would be no food to eat at home. Life was very difficult.
My stepsister dropped out of school in form three because of this violence and abuse at home. We later realised that she was pregnant. She was just 16 years old then and our father was pleased that his daughter was going to be married off. A custom loved by most men in patriarchal society. These difficulties lasted 6 years. (2008-2014) I often call it “The Dark Years”.
Today I am happy that I’m one of the Change agents who have made a number of positive changes in other people’s lives at local, national and international levels.
I am currently volunteering with Children of the World Foundation (COW Foundation) Kitgum, as a Youth Peer Facilitator engaged in a number of programmes aimed at addressing all forms of violence in our communities. I am also part of a joint partnership with Voluntary Service Overseas under International Citizens Service programme (VSO-ICS), where I facilitate a lot of dialogue meetings, conduct community sensitizations and radio programmes with various stakeholders within the district on Gender Based Violence (GBV) issues. I am also part of District Coordination Committee (DCC) and District Aids Coordination Committee (DACC). I am a “Stop GBV Champion” for Kitgum District and concerned with prevention and case management of GBV issues within the District, working hand in hand with Police and District Community Development Office (CDOs). Lastly, I work part-time with The Aids Support Organization (TASO) as a Gender Based Violence (GBV/HIV) Counselor.
Call to Action
I would like to urge all stakeholders including Government Offices, NGOs, Local Leaders, Religious and Cultural Leaders and parents to wholeheartedly take domestic violence as a serious problem for our communities. One that is a serious setback for the growth and development of our communities. We need to support development programmes that eradicate domestic violence from our communities. We need awareness in the forms of community sensitizations, dialogue meetings and community engagement to deal with these issues.
I urge the local government to work through the local councilors at village level and set by-laws that restrict careless consumption of alcohol by parents and monitor implementation, effectiveness and impact of these by laws.
Finally call upon the police to ensure child friendly, conducive services and environment for reporting and dealing with any incidents of violence against children and women so that our societies leave in peace.
#YouthAction blog by Francis Ocitti